Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘beach nesting birds’

CWF Scientists Follow At-Risk Migratory Shorebirds to Tierra del Fuego

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

by Stephanie Feigin, Wildlife Ecologist

 

Over the past two years, our team, with the help of funding from the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, has worked to create critical habitat maps and detailed threat maps for at-risk shorebird species in Northern Brazil and in Tierra Del Fuego, Chile. These projects have established the foundation for conservation planning in these important wintering areas for migratory shorebirds like red knots.

 

Brazil:

Two years ago, our team began working in Northern, Brazil covering the Atlantic coastline of both Pará and Maranhão state between Belém and São Luís. Our team conducted two successful excursions to Brazil taking point count surveys of wading shorebirds collecting approximately 44,700 individual bird sightings to add to the database our team created for the critical habitat maps (Figures 1 & 2).

Figure 2. Results from the 2017 point count survey

                    Figure 1. Results from the 2016 point count survey

 

David Santos and Larry Niles conduct point sampling surveys in Maranhão Brazil.

We conducted surveys using point count methods using fixed radius plots positioned along transects, with all wading birds counted within the 250m radius. Transects were conducted by either walking or while in a boat across various tidal stages and a variety of habitat types including mangrove creeks, sand flats, mudflats and beaches.

 

 

 

Brazil Team: Carla Meneguin,
Paulo Siqueira, Ana Paula Sousa, Larry Niles, Juliana Almeida, Carmem Fedrizzi Joe Smith, Stephanie Feigin, Yann Rochepault, Laura Reis and Christophe Buiden (photo by Juliana Almeida)

 

 

 

Our team then created threat maps of the region from coastal development, mining operations, offshore drilling, and shrimp farming to help inform future conservation planning and mitigate impacts of these activities to the critical shorebird habitat in the region.

 

Chile:

This year, with a second round of funding, our team conducted work in Tierra Del Fuego, Chile to create critical habitat and detailed threat maps for Bahia Lomas in Chile. Bahia Lomas is both a globally significant RAMSAR wetlands site and a Western Hemisphere shorebird site of hemispheric importance.  

 

Shorebirds in Bahia Lomas

Historically, Bahía Lomas and nearby Rio Grande supported wintering populations of 67,000 red knots –  the largest wintering area for knots in the Western Hemisphere. In the last 30 years, however, the population has declined to less than 15,000 knots in Bahía Lomas and the population in Rio Grande is functionally extinct (Morrison et al 1989).

 

 

Aerial Survey over Bahia Lomas

 

 

 

This January our team conducted surveys along the coast of Bahia Lomas to understand distribution of shorebird species within the region, using the same sampling methods, study key roosting and feeding habitats, and delineate critical habitat and threats to the region to inform future conservation and minimize impacts to shorebird populations.

 

Team in Chile including Ross Wood, Stu Mackenzie, Carmen Espoz, Larry Niles, Joe Smith, Yann Rochepault, Christophe Buidin, Antonio Larrea, Richard Lathrop, Stephanie Feigin and Amanda Dey.

Over two weeks our team of New Jerseyans and Canadians conducted point-count sampling surveys throughout the bay with large assistance from our partners from Universidad Santo Tomás in Chile to determine key habitats. Additionally, our team conducted four aerial surveys to get species distribution counts on a large scale of the whole bay at various tide stages, as well as a helicopter survey to continue the population counts of the region done by Dr. Guy Morrison. Finally, our partners with the Universidad Santo Tomás conducted marine invertebrate sampling surveys. These data will be combined to aid in the creation of a GIS mapping system that can identify the most important shorebird habitats in the region.

 

 

 

 

 

In the next few months our team will use these data and overlay them with threat mapping to determine the critical habitats undergoing the greatest threats.  This project is designed set the stage for proactive conservation planning that will mitigate future threats and will hopefully uncover the source of ongoing declines to the shorebirds in this region.

Citation:

 

Morrison R.I.G. & Ross R.K. (1989) Atlas of Nearctic shorebirds on the coast of South America. Canadian Wildlife Service Ottawa (Canada).

 

2017: Piping Plover Nesting Season

Thursday, November 16th, 2017
How did they do?

Emily Heiser, CWFNJ Wildlife Biologist

Statewide pair-nest success was down this year, but remains above the long-term average. photo by Northside Jim.

For the 12th year in a row, the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, in partnership with New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species, assisted in monitoring and managing the state’s Beach Nesting Bird Project.  Four species are regularly monitored throughout the field season: piping plovers (federally threatened, state endangered), least terns (state endangered), black skimmers (state endangered), and American oystercatchers (state species of special concern). Statewide, piping plovers are of particular concern as their numbers continue to decline and federal recovery goals have not been achieved.  (more…)

Kids are Back in School – but Their Summer Wildlife Lessons Endure!

Thursday, September 29th, 2016
Conserve Wildlife Foundation brought three conservation-themed summer learning experiences to the New Jersey coast.

By: Kendall Miller

I went back to “camp” this summer, seeing schoolkids learn first-hand about wildlife and what biologists do. CWF offered three summer learning experiences for the first time, each with a different theme, content, and location.

Observing the kids’ excitement and enthusiasm for nature was uplifting, and I was also impressed with how knowledgeable they all were. Offering hands-on opportunities – to learn about wildlife while experiencing these habitats – is so important in fostering an appreciation in the younger generations.

“Education is a major goal of CWF’s mission. Through project-based, experiential learning, we hope that camps like these leave impressions with children,” said CWF Director of Education Stephanie DAlessio, who developed the new program. “While we are out having fun, we are also learning about the importance of protecting and preserving wildlife and their habitats in New Jersey.”

This summer was a great start, and CWF is excited for the years to come!

Bayshore Adventure at Leonardo Marina
Seining, special wildlife guests and sandcastles along the Raritan Bayshore!

Located in the harbor, across from Sandy Hook, noisy terns and gulls fight over their catches as kids arrive in the morning to spend the part of their day learning about the bayshore environment. Sunny, sand-filled learning about marine and coastal wildlife and habitats, seining for coastal creatures, mini-science activities and special guests were balanced with a healthy dose of wiffleball games and sandcastle-building contests.

Kids met biologist and beach nesting bird manager Todd Pover. He talked about - of course - the piping plover, and issues with conserving threatened and endangered beach nesting birds.

Kids met biologist and beach nesting bird manager Todd Pover. He talked about – of course – the piping plover, and issues with conserving threatened and endangered beach nesting birds.

NJ State Park police officer Karl Mott and K9 Kelly, a police dog who finds lost cellphones, wallets, and even people. Campers were able to see her in action and participate in hiding drills.

NJ State Park police officer Karl Mott and K9 Kelly, a police dog who finds lost cellphones, wallets, and even people. Campers were able to see her in action and participate in hiding drills.

Wildlife Explorer Program at Duke Farms
Raptors, art and orchids on a North Jersey nature oasis!

Set in the lovely Duke Farms in Hillsborough, every day of this week-long camp was a new and exciting experience featuring different types of wildlife! Kids spent time exploring the grounds at Duke, played games and explored their creativity through art projects alongside famed artist James Fiorentino, met real life biologists and best of all – got up close and personal with all kinds of raptors (like the red-tailed hawk below), amphibians and reptiles. These memorable experiences will hopefully cement in their minds the importance of being stewards to their environment.

Campers explored the Orchid Range and saw a collection of plants from all over the world.

Campers explored the Orchid Range and saw a collection of plants from all over the world.

Bill Streeter of Delaware Valley Raptor Center visited to talk about amazing birds of prey, bringing with him their resident educational birds. Campers sat in awe of these raptors like this red-tailed hawk.

Bill Streeter of Delaware Valley Raptor Center visited to talk about amazing birds of prey, bringing with him their resident educational birds. Campers sat in awe of these raptors like this red-tailed hawk.

Beach.Birds.Biology
A day afield with a beach nesting birds biologist!

Shorebird biologists know the importance of educating people about the plight of beach nesting birds in New Jersey, who rely on the beaches that people flock to in the summertime. So on three different occasions, parents signed their kids up to spend a day on the beach learning about these birds with CWF biologist, Emily Heiser – like the piping plover, American oystercatcher, black skimmer and least tern. Kids got to practice being wildlife biologists. They used spotting scopes to read tags on decoy birds and searched for camouflaged eggs in the sand. The day was also filled with games, beach scavenger hunts, and a fun poster drawing project to be put on display.

Campers spot some plovers and oystercatchers feeding in vernal pools along the inlet at Barnegat Light.

Campers spot some plovers and oystercatchers feeding in vernal pools along the inlet at Barnegat Light.

After learning about the plight of beach nesting birds, the kids got creative by drawing signs to be posted near nesting and feeding sites.

After learning about the plight of beach nesting birds, the kids got creative by drawing signs to be posted near nesting and feeding sites.


For more information about these educational programs, please visit our website at www.ConserveWildlifeNJ.org , or contact our  Director of Education Stephanie DAlessio at (609) 292-9451.


Kendall Miller is a Program Coordinator at Conserve Wildlife Foundation.

Beachnester Buzz: Drum roll please, the 2016 breeding results for beachnesters are…

Monday, August 15th, 2016
NEW, WEEKLY UPDATES FROM NEW JERSEY’S BEACH NESTING BIRD PROJECT TEAM

by Todd Pover, Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager

There are many ways to gauge success for our beachnesting bird project. We look at how well our management tools work, the effectiveness of our partnerships, and how well our educational efforts work, to name a few qualitative measures we use. At some point, however, it comes down to cold hard numbers, how well did the birds do in a particular season and over the long-term. We are at that point in the season, and for the most part, I am happy to report it has been an excellent breeding year. I will caution that these are still preliminary figures, some quality checking of the data needs to be done before they are final, but the trends are clear.

One of a "bumper crop" of piping plover fledglings produced in New Jersey in 2016. Photo courtesy of Kevin Knutsen.

One of a “bumper crop” of piping plover fledglings produced in New Jersey in 2016. Photo courtesy of Kevin Knutsen.

First up are piping plovers. We will come in at ~115 pairs statewide, up modestly from the 108 pairs in 2015, and the second consecutive year of an increase after hitting our historic low of just 92 pairs in 2014. So, we have climbed back closer to our long-term average, but there is still room to improve. The really good news is our productivity this year – close to a statewide record at 1.37 chicks fledged per pairs – puts us in the position to continue our population increase. If trends hold, because piping plovers demonstrate high site (or region) fidelity, when we produce a lot of fledglings, our breeding population rises in the next year or two. With three straight years of well above average fledgling rates for New Jersey now in the books, our prospects look good in the short term for our breeding population levels.

Least terns and black skimmers, which nest in colonies, sometimes numbering hundreds (or even thousands), are more challenging to count and assess, but we had at least modest success this year for both species. As is typical, our least tern colonies were variable, with some completely failing and others being highly productive. The Monmouth County region, one of our strongholds for least terns in New Jersey, didn’t have one colony that was a standout but most of them had at least some success. In South Jersey, our two largest colonies at Holgate (EB Forsythe NWR) and Seaview Harbor were very successful and helped make up for losses and failures at other colonies. The majority of our state’s black skimmers are concentrated in one large colony at Seaview Harbor, and although skimmers are our latest nesters (so the season isn’t quite over for them), they appear to have been very successful there, which means a good season overall for the state.

We also track American oystercatchers, although only for the portion that nest on the barrier beaches and spits. Because the biggest percentage of oystercatchers in the state nest on back bay and marsh islands, we cannot determine true statewide population or productivity levels, but the population on the beach habitat appears to be rising in recent years. Typically breeding success is lower for oystercatchers on the beach habitat due to high levels of human disturbance and predators, but productivity has been relative high the past two years. Of particular note this year was Stone Harbor Point, where a record number of 27 pairs nested and produced over 30 fledglings.

The reality is our beachnester staff works just as hard in years when the birds do poorly, as when they do well like this year, but it is SO much more rewarding when we have a good season. So as we wrap up the season, we are all feeling in a bit of a celebratory mode now!


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Beachnester Buzz: A Day in the Life of a Beachnester

Monday, August 8th, 2016

NEW, WEEKLY UPDATES FROM NEW JERSEY’S BEACH NESTING BIRD PROJECT TEAM

by Todd Pover, Beach Nesting Bird Project Manager

 

For this week’s installment, I thought it would be fun to have you tag along with me on a day in the field, so you can get a sampling of what goes into our beach nesting bird program. Let’s call it, “A Day in the Life of a Beachnester.”

 

skimmer

Black skimmer and chicks at our Belmar colony where we recently banded the young before they could fly. Photo courtesy of Jersey Shore Photography.

Today it is an early 4 am rise to beat the beach crowds and heat, as we are banding black skimmers at our Belmar colony. This is the first time our program has banded skimmers –  it is a collaborative effort with other organizations/agencies in both New York and New Jersey – we hope to find out more about their survival, longevity, and movement, both local and long distance. Everything goes well, we are able to corral and band about 35 chicks in less than an hour. This part of the day represents the science portion of the beach nesting bird project, science for the sake of study and a better understanding of our birds, but more importantly to gather information to help us manage and recover endangered species.

 

With no time to spare, it is now off to Leonardo along Sandy Hook Bay where CWF is hosting a summer wildlife experience for kids. No surprise, I am the guest today to teach the kids about beach nesting birds. I explain why piping plovers and American oystercatchers are at risk, and then give them a chance to use a high powered birding scope to try to read bands I have placed on decoy birds. We definitely have some budding biologists in the mix. Education is key to our project, unlike other endangered species that mostly live out of sight or reach, beachnesters spend the breeding season on the same beaches visited by millions of tourists and residents. If they are going to learn to “share the shore” with our endangered birds, outreach is essential.

 

beachnester buzz plant

Sea beach amaranth, a rare plant, that shares the beach with our nesting shorebirds and also is protected.

Next up is a stop at Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park, one of our important nesting areas in Monmouth County. For most of the season we are erecting and adjusting fence to protect nesting areas, but today we are working with the park to reduce the fence, as many of our birds have successfully nested and started to leave the area. First we count and locate any remaining least terns – these surveys are the base of our project – we need this data to track population trends and seasonal productivity as metrics of progress towards recovery. Before we remove any fence at this site, we also conduct surveys of sea beach amaranth, an endangered plant that shares the beach with our nesting birds. We locate a few plants and that dictates how we readjust the fence, the plants need protection from trampling by beachgoers or vehicles used by the park to maintain their beach.

 

 

Coordination with municipalities or other land owners that host beach nesting birds is a critical part of our project, as their activities can impact nesting success as much as beachgoer’s recreational use of the beach. So there is one more stop today to assess whether a maintenance request can be granted in a way that won’t put birds at risk. That done, it is time to start the two hour drive back to our office in Cape May County. I am ready for a nap, but no luck, as the truck becomes a mobile office to take care of other unattended business (while someone else drives of course). There are calls with several other towns, check-ins with our seasonal staff members that are spread out all along the coast, and finally dealing with a broken down vehicle (not ours fortunately) and a person who refused to take their dog off a nesting site.

 

Back at the office, it is one last check of email, entering a little bit of the data we collected today, and finally time to head home. Every day is a little different, but this day has been a good cross-section of the range of things we do on the project. It is tempting to think we just pop up fence and signs and hope the birds do well, but protection and recovery of our endangered beach nesting birds requires a comprehensive strategy addressing all the factors that impact nesting success.

 

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